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Digital Literacy, it’s more than just process

Mat Newman  April 30 2012 10:57:57
This Week in Lotus episode 97 resonated soundly with me this week, especially the discussion surrounding Digital Literacy.  Darren Duke made the comment:

"...If you're doing a 4 year degree ... the technology you use today is going to be invariably different to the technology when you come out..."

As an educator, one of the most important things I impart to my participants on any subject are the concepts they are learning about, before moving on to the process.  Sure, I can teach the process for performing a Mail Merge in Wordperfect, AmiPro, WordPro, Word, LibreOffice, OpenOffice and Symphony, but more importantly, one should understand that a word-processing application is capable of combining data from another source to produce a final document with variable information (the concept).

Similarly, I have never taught a word-processing class without discussing the importance of Styles.  Styles - after all - are the most important feature a word-processor contains that enable users to easily implement and maintain a consistent look and feel throughout their document.  Discussing the concept of styles is just as important as teaching the process for creating and using them.  If a user understands the concept, it enables them to sit in front of a new software application and using help resources, locate the process for implementing that concept within that unfamiliar application.

This - to me - is the crux of Digital Literacy.

It should not matter which particular software application is being used.  If one has a high degree of Digital Literacy, then one understands the concepts that an application holds, and therefore only needs adjust their behaviour while using that application to execute the process that will provide the desired outcome.


I often find it interesting to review how a user utilises a particular application.  A classic example recently was a user who had built a sophisticated navigation tool for their fellow users that enabled them (via hyper-links) to navigate through the various documents and forms located on a shared drive to easily locate the information they required.  Sound like a classic intranet? A Sharepoint or Connections infrastructure? Or even Lotus Notes?  Nope. It was all done inside Microsoft Excel.

Not to say that the user had done this 'incorrectly', or that they were using the 'wrong' tool, but simply; Were they using the tool best suited for the outcome they required?

Users who are familiar with a particular process (ie: the functions available within an application) will often fall back on that application to produce some really creative outcomes.  Often because they lack the Digital Literacy to understand that there may be a more appropriate tool available to them.

So the next time you do some training, a demonstration, or presentation, why not spend a few moments explaining the concept before you launch into steps 1-2-3 of a process.  You will enhance your presentation immeasurably because you will be helping to increase the Digital Literacy of your audience.

Thanks Darren, Stu and Jon for discussing this important topic.
Comments

1David Schaffer  05/01/2012 3:09:25  
Digital Literacy, it’s more than just process

A point I've tried to make many times, and you do it better than I ever have.

So often I find users have memorized a series of procedures with no understanding of concept, and they can't transfer their knowledge if they change application or even if an interface gets upgraded (think MS Office ribbon).

Yes dear user, copy and paste work the same in every application, not just Word.

2Mat Newman

05/01/2012 6:31:59  Digital Literacy, it’s more than just process

@1, David: Thanks! As you point out, it's really imporant that everyone who is teaching a process should understand that's it's not just the steps that users need.

Mat Newman IBM Champion

3Stephan H. Wissel  05/01/2012 21:59:28  
Digital Literacy, it’s more than just process

Concept, schmonzept.

Just memorize the steps and follow them religiously and cry for help if it doesn't work. You are within the majority then.

"WHY?" is such a dangerous question, it leads to own thinking, resourcefulness or *grasp* mastery.

/irony

Amen brother

4Ray Bilyk  05/16/2012 22:19:46  
Digital Literacy, it’s more than just process

YES! YES! YES!

This would mean that first level help desks would be able to help end users by 'going off of the script' and TRULY understanding the problem!

This works in life as well... I work with a youth group, and I try to teach them that life is not just a bunch of 'if you do this, do that' scenarios, but it's a bunch of 'we have no steps for this' situations, and those that can think 'outside of the box' will succeed, and those that don't will be left in the dust!

Great job once again, my friend! Cheers!

Mat Newman

THE Lotus Notes Guy. Productivity Guru. Social Evangelist. IBM Champion for IBM Collaboration Solutions, 2011/2012/2013. IBMer. Views are my own.

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